Friday, November 29, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
“Youth should learn to think and act as a mass. It is
criminal to think as individuals!”
'via Blog this'
RealClearPolicy - Driving Toward Failure: "Stand on any street corner in Northern Virginia and watch the stream of cars with foreign nameplates go by. The D.C. metro area is lousy with Toyotas and Hondas, and it boasts far more than its fair share of BMWs, Volvos, and Mercedes. Only in Washington would policymakers be ready to buy American car companies when they won't buy American cars."The defining feature of political decadence is the rulers living under different laws from the ruled. Of all the great policy intellectuals that advocated and defended the Detroit bailouts at tax payer expense how many actually drive an American car?
Tension and Flaws Before Health Website Crash - NYTimes.com: "over the past three years five different lower-level managers held posts overseeing the development of HealthCare.gov, none of whom had the kind of authority to reach across the administration to ensure the project stayed on schedule.When you a government program goes badly there is usually a call to get someone in there who has area specific expertise, someone that knows the particular subject matter at hand, to do the job and make decisions on a rational, non-political, basis.
As a result, the president’s signature initiative was effectively left under the day-to-day management of Henry Chao, a 19-year veteran of the Medicare agency with little clout and little formal background in computer science.
Mr. Chao had to consult with senior department officials and the White House, and was unable to make many decisions on his own. “Nothing was decided without a conversation there,” said one agency official involved in the project, referring to the constant White House demands for oversight. On behalf of Mr. Chao, the Medicare agency declined to comment."
'via Blog this'
But that is often the exact wrong advice. Many of the decisions that had to be made and were not made in the website roll out were not strictly speaking technical in nature but political. There was no purely technical answer to the decisions that held up the process so long, such as whether or not users should be required to give their social security number or whether they should be able to see prices without having created an account and thereby getting their potential subsidies figured in before hand. These are questions that involve value trade-offs and political calculations.
Moreover, they involve political risks. That is why none of them could be answered before consulting with political people higher up in the administration, a process which inevitably takes a long time and which made it impossible to take many other purely technical decisions in s a timely manner. What the Obama administration needed was not more people with computer expertise but more people with political clout empowered to make decisions on the design of the website.
And that is one of the things that is troubling about Obama's hands off management style. He says that he doesn't write code and goes off to do another fund-raiser. But the problem wasn't writing code, it was making political decisions on which coding decisions were dependent, decisions that only he or someone politically connected to him can make.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Peace for Our Time | National Review Online: "Collate reset, lead from behind, “redlines,” “game-changers,” ”deadlines,” the Arab Spring confusion, the skedaddle from Iraq, Benghazi, the Eastern European missile pullback, and the atmosphere is comparable to the 1979–80 Carter landscape, in which after three years of observation, the opportunists at last decided to act while the acting was good, from Afghanistan to Central America to Tehran.
There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements."Of course, the analogy with Munich has its problems. First off, people can always ignore the analogy on the grounds that Hitler analogies are by definition illegitimate--a rhetorical dodge that costs us a lot of good insights, not just about our enemies, but about our own rulers.
In particular, Neville Chamberlain is a good figure to whom to compare Obama in many ways. Both are very well educated and convinced that they are the smartest person in the room. Both are willing and sometimes eager to ignore advice from their opponents. Neither are particularly graceful in taking criticism.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney was not exactly Winston Churchill.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Remembering Stanley Ann Dunham Obama | RealClearPolitics: "There would be, if it had been true. But when New York Times reporter Janny Scott researched the issue for her biography of the president's mother, she discovered letters proving beyond doubt that Cigna never denied Stanley Ann Dunham coverage for her disease. The dispute was over a disability plan that would have paid some of her other expenses.Read the whole thing, as she goes on to chronicle the other lies that were told to get Obamacare passed.
The White House did not deny Scott's account, but shrugged it off as something that had happened long ago. Not so long that it couldn't be milked one last time though, for a 2012 campaign film. In "The Road We've Traveled," the message remained unchanged -- a greedy insurance company had cut off Obama's mother at her moment of maximum vulnerability, and it cost Dunham her life."
Friday, November 22, 2013
What is interesting to me is that this is the sort of issue that you never hear conservatives complain about. It is something that is done at the state or the city level and so constitutionally there is no problem, they have the power to make such rules.
This is the beauty of Federalism. Just let states make the laws they are constitutionally entitled to make and the federal government stick to the powers delegated to it by the Constitution and so many of the vexing arguments and conflicts over political issues of our day just melt away.
Conservatives are fine with local communities making laws that they do not personally agree with. It is only when national elites try to impose their preferences on the rest of us through mis-interpretations of the Federal Constitution that we complain.
Respected Economist Says Higher Ed Bubble Starting To Burst: "Loosely defined, the higher education bubble refers to the unsustainable combination of several factors all coalescing at once: the rising cost of tuition; the growing irrelevancy of a liberal arts degree; ballooning student loan debt; and skyrocketing unemployment for college grads.The amazing thing about inflation in higher education is that what college professors do has not changed. While doctors can cure diseases that were untreatable just a generation ago, professors have not increase in quality or value they can use to justify their increase in prices even though higher education has increased in cost even faster than has medicine.
Vedder said the bubble is already starting to burst, as evidenced by the fact that school admissions are down precipitously from last year, pressuring an already bloated system."
Why Nuke Now? | The Daily Caller: "The D.C. Circuit, more than other circuits, is the central institution of America’s regulatory state, which is the basis for the booming economy of the entire National Capital area. Should this court become hostile to regulations, or capable of reviewing fewer of them, there might be correspondingly fewer reasons for corporations and other interests to hire connected D.C. lawyers to lobby government agencies to get the regulations they want, and to then defend those regulations when they’re challenged in court. And there’d be fewer reasons for young men and women to come to the capital to work in its agencies for a few years before moving into the private sector and becoming one of those lawyers corporations hire to manipulate the agencies they worked for."The press has been chin pulling about the way that Republicans have held up the President's judicial nominees and whether it was really worse than the way that the Democrats held up Bush's nominees, but that is all a distraction. The give away is that nuke was detonated to add more judges to the D.C. Circuit, something which goes beyond the mere selection of judges that share your outlook to fill vacancies as they come up and actually allows the incumbent party to change the current composition of a court without waiting for judges to die off or retire.
Roosevelt's attempt to do this with the Supreme Court was one of the greatest mistakes of his presidency and one that cost him the most politically. The same ought to happen to Obama, but the press's fixation on the incidental details while ignoring the main story suggests that the One may get away without paying a price this time.
Those effects seem to be long-lasting. Income setbacks during a recession can stay with you throughout your career -- for example, studies of people who graduate into a recession show that even decades later, they’re not earning as much as people who graduated into sunnier environments. But a new study from Europe seems to show that even cognitive declines are persistentThis makes the case against what I call 'proxi-socialism' all the more stronger. The government has instituted policies that redistribute wealth not by taxing it and handing it out but by changing the rules of the market place to force individual consumers and employers to redistribute it. Consumers of health care are forced to subsidize the healthcare consumption of people that use the mandated benefits that insurers must include in any package of benefits they offer and businesses must provide a minimum level of benefits and wages to anyone whom they choose to hire. These things drive up the cost of labor and, consequently, result in less labor being purchased or, as it is usually put, more unemployment.
Insurers restricting choice of doctors and hospitals to keep costs down - The Washington Post: "In New Hampshire, consumers who purchase insurance through the exchange have only one choice of carrier — Anthem BlueCross BlueShield— because no other insurer applied to join the exchange. The company’s network includes access to only 16 of the state’s 26 acute-care hospitals.
That’s forcing people such as Michael Justice, 63, a Web developer from Peterborough, N.H., to leave doctors they like. Justice has been treated by primary-care doctors, cardiologists, orthopedists and eye doctors affiliated with Monadnock Community Hospital in his town for 15 years, and his wife for 30 years. But starting in 2014, that medical center will no longer be in network for the Anthem plans sold in his state, whether he buys the insurance through the health exchange or on his own."
People are going to start finding out that they not only can't keep their plan but that the new plan does not include their doctor. That may be a much more devastating blow politically than the rate shock that people on the individual market have been experiencing. More importantly, unlike the rate shock which is only directed felt by people who buy their health insurance on the individual market, the 'doc-shock' will affect people that get their medical insurance through their employers.
The striking thing is that all of these facts are documented but almost completely unknown because the press decides on a narrative that supports their preferred causes and all facts that conflict with it are edited out of the public record by a conspiracy of politically correct silence.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Gallup has been asking the question since 2000. "Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare," the firm reports. The proportion answering "yes" peaked in 2006 at 69%--27 points higher than today's number. Then it began declining, to 64% in 2007 and 54% in 2008.
The current 42% is the lowest figure ever recorded, but the percentage answering in the affirmative hasn't risen above 50% since 2009. Remember what happened in 2009?
Not surprisingly, the answers vary by party. The 56% of Americans who say universal health care is not the government's responsibility include 86% of Republicans, 55% of independent and 30% of Democrats.
This reflects a more abrupt change among Democrats (up five points since 2012) than among Republicans (down two points) or independents (up one point).
Perhaps the most dramatic finding: The proportion of Democrats who say it isn't the federal government's responsibility in 2013 (30%) is higher than the proportion of all voters who said the same thing in 2006 (28%).
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
The interesting thing about this proposal is that it has proponents on the right and the left.
The right would approve of the non-distorting effects of the payment. Since you don't have to do anything to qualify for the payment there would be no disincentive effects (technically no moral hazard) and thus no destruction of wealth caused by the payment itself (deadweight loss).
It would be expensive. In the US it would be $24,000 a year times the number of adult citizens (assuming we do not make the payments to non-citizens) which is about 230 million. It comes out to just under 6 trillion dollars. Since our entire GDP is about 16 trillion and our entire federal budget is about 3.7 trillion that would be a lot. On the other hand, if it were only a thousand, it might be doable and would by definition lift everyone out of poverty.
If it were to replace all other income supports and social income insurance programs it would not actually be that much more expensive than the current system.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Pro-Obamacare: Ezra Kline of the Washington Post, whose wonkbook blog is the first place to go for center-left policy analysis on almost any issue. Here he answers the charge that Obamacare is in a death spiral (though in this blog post from today he is a bit more pessimistic).
Anti-Obamacare: Megan McArdle's Asymmetrical Information blog, now at Bloomberg. In addition to Healthcare she is better at explaining economic theory as it applies to important policy questions than anyone else I read.
Some other things worth reading:
Sarah Kliff argues that the real crunch time for the ACA is months away and that the problems faced in these early months are not going to matter much in the long run.
Matthew Yglesia, one of the smartest policy analysts on the left, argues that the Republican alternative to Obama Care would make people lose their insurance as well.
This take-down of a Sean Hannity story on people that have supposedly lost their insurance through Obamacare. With Friends like these, conservatives don't need enemies.
Here is Avik Roy's analysis of the ACA's effect on insurance premiums for individual. He makes the case that the law transfers wealth from young and healthy people to, well, people like me. Thanks, kids.
Here is an article about a study of cosmetic surgery which, since it is not covered by insurance, is exposed to market forces and consequently has not only gone up in price more slowly than other types of medical care that are covered by insurance, has actually been getting cheaper in real terms.
Most of the problems with the website so far seem to be due to the decison to make people create an account--with all their personal information--before they can see the prices of the various insurance pakages available. So why do that? Yuval Levin:
Some journalists and analysts have speculated that this decision was made in order to prevent people from seeing premium costs before they could also see any subsidies they might be eligible for, so that the shock of higher prices could be contained and so that simply curious observers and journalists couldn’t get a picture of premium costs in the various states.
This is certainly a plausible explanation and is in line with the fundamental dishonesty of the Administration, but it is a lot less disturbing than the explanation I had formed in my own mind, that they wanted to have all your information in order to track you down and force you into buying insurance.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Animal House-Cheering up Flounder - YouTube: Which is better apology? Otters, "You fucked up, you trusted us!" or Obama's
"We weren't as clear as we needed to be, in terms of the changes that were taking place," Obama said in an interview with NBC News.They are both similar from the point of view of their underlying meaning. You believed what I told you and now you are suffering for it. The reasons that you are suffering for it is because what I told you was not true. But Obama's statement that "We weren't as clear as we needed to be," is misleading. He was perfectly clear. "If you like your insurance you can keep it, period," is very clear, it is just that it is not true. And the President knew it was untrue at the time. Saying something that you know to be untrue is called lying.
"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," he said."
In any case, Otter's apology is certainly more fun.
The same may be said of the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto who, after admitting to and apologizing for smoking crack, now has a higher approval rating than Obama. If you can't be sincere at least be fun.
So many in the public sphere are wedded to the idea that the only thing standing between us and harmonious relations with the Islamic world is the insidious influence of the Jewish/Israeli lobby in the US that it will come as a shock that France--a country that is as pro-Palestinian as any country in Europe and cannot be accused of having an Israeli lobby at all--is the country that put a stop to the deal. It seems there are other reasons besides the secret power of the Jews to not want the largest state sponsor of terrorism (according to the US State Department's assessment) to have a nuclear weapon.
And it is also another instance of a pattern that has become more pronounced in recent years, that of the French taking a harder line and firmer action than the US. From Mali to Libya and more recently in Syria and now Iran, France has been the Western state that has taken the hardest line against Islamist terrorism in all its forms. They deserve our thanks and respect.
It is hard to sum things up by a single number since the prices vary so much by gender, age and, under Obamacare, income. Winners--women and old people. Losers--the young and the male. The headline applies to a 27 year old male receiving the median level of subsidy who, after the subsidy is applied, will pay 41% more insurance.
But the largest transfer of wealth is from the young to the old. Like our social insurance programs they are a massive transfer of money out of the pockets of the young into to those of the old. The irony is that young people are Obama's base of support while old people are the demographic that is least supportive of the President. Whether this is a testament to the young's public spiritedness or their gullibility is a matter of perspective. As one of those old people who will benefit from the triumph of "hope and change" allow me to say thanks--suckers!
There are many things one could say about this
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The Crisis Arrives | The Weekly Standard: "In 2012, Obama supporters made hay with claims that Mitt Romney had caused an ex-employee’s wife to die of cancer by terminating her husband’s employment and coverage.Now Obama has caused about 9 million people to lose their healthcare coverage. And it is not a story--she had health insurance through her own employer which she lost three years after the plant had closed. They did not buy another insurance policy as a couple because they thought it was too expensive. In any case, is it Mitt Romney's fault that the US steel industry was devastated by foreign competition in the 90s? The people that Obama has caused to lose their insurance lost it because Obama wanted them to lose it. And it is likely that a substantial proportion of them will choose to forgo insurance because it is too expensive. And Obama was only able to make this happen, to get his bill through Congress, by lying to the very people that are now losing their coverage by telling them that they would not lose their coverage. Period.
In fairness, the press did report on the untruthfulness of the Obama ad against Romney and they did, finally, go after the President on his lies on Obama care. Still, it seems to Romney suffered more from Obama's lies than so far has Obama.
Bridenstine: Obama should treat friends better | TheHill: "The Obama administration is befriending one country, but is all too eager to criticize the other. Nation One wants a nuclear weapons capability. Nation Two combats nuclear proliferation. Nation One supports global terrorist movements. Nation Two contributes troops to America’s fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Nation One is an Islamic theocracy. Nation Two is a secular society in which women, Christians and Jews enjoy equal rights with the Muslim majority.But the administration's actions make perfect sense from their theory of foreign affairs: if someone hates you it must be because of some misunderstanding or some injustice you have done to them in the past. In either case, being critical just makes the situation worse. On the other hand, if someone is trying to be your friend and is so accounted by the world, it is all the more important to hold them to the highest standards so as to maintain our own credibility with those who mistrust us or count themselves as our enemies.
By now, you may realize that Nation One is Iran. Nation Two is Azerbaijan, an ancient civilization in the South Caucasus that regained its independence in 1991 after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Iran and Azerbaijan both held presidential elections this year. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s response to them suggests that it pays to be an adversary of the United States rather than a friend."
Historians have documented most everything about [the Holocaust] except what made it so easy to attack the defenseless Jews without fear of resistance. Their guns were registered and thus easily confiscated.
To illustrate, turn the clock back further and focus on just one victim, a renowned German athlete. Alfred Flatow won first place in gymnastics at the 1896 Olympics. In 1932, he dutifully registered three handguns, as required by a decree of the liberal Weimar Republic. The decree also provided that in times of unrest, the guns could be confiscated. The government gullibly neglected to consider that only law-abiding citizens would register, while political extremists and criminals would not. However, it did warn that the gun-registration records must be carefully stored so they would not fall into the hands of extremists.
Note that it is not just gun control but the very act of registration that the Nazis were able to make use of.The ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power just a year later, in 1933. The Nazis immediately used the firearms-registration records to identify, disarm and attack “enemies of the state...”
Thursday, November 07, 2013
State of the Union Message to Congress - January 11, 1944: "...if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the 1920's -- then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of fascism here at home."
Equating your political opponents to Fascists, one of FDR's less attractive legacies.
Fireside Chat 27: December 24, 1943: "There have always been cheerful idiots in this country who believed that there would be no more war for us, if everybody in America would only return into their homes and lock their front doors behind them."
And this particular brand of idiocy remains a bipartisan phenomena.
Sunday, November 03, 2013
"Obama himself acknowledged some people would lose their insurance during a health care speech Wednesday in Boston, though he also took aim at the “bad-apple insurers” who have been selling “cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.”
“Now, if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you’re able to keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office. That was part of the promise we made,” Obama said. “But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage — because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.”"
Well, yes, you may have liked that plan, but you were too uniformed to know that you were getting a bad deal, that it didn't offer enough coverage in "the event of a serious illness," the plan was "substandard," and besides, it wasn't the same plan, because, whether you noticed or not, the plan was not the plan you thought you had. It had changed, not that you had changed it, but that the insurance company had changed it and so the deal was off, though of course, again, you were too obtuse to have noticed it. Indeed, canceling "substandard" plans on the technicality that the insurance company had thrown away the grandfathering privilege by making changes in the plan, is another promise of the plan. It was a promise you may not have noticed, but again that is your fault, you should have been better informed about the definitions of "your healthcare plan," since by changing any of the provisions of the plan your healthcare plan the insurance company, even though you were buying the insurance from the same company and the insurance had the same provisions and the same name and was as far as you knew was the same plan you had had before, was, in fact, the plan you were "renewing," the plan was not "your healthcare plan." Therefore, by causing it to be cancelled, the administration was not breaking its promise. It was not your healthcare plan in the first place.
You are so foolish and in need of guidance from the government that you not only need the government to tell you what should be in your healthcare plan, you need the government to tell you what is your healthcare plan. The government tells you that you can keep your car. Then, when you complain as the government tows your car out of your driveway and you come out yelling, "Wait, that's my car!" the government looks at you quizzically and says, "That's not your car. You put cheaper tires on it," or "but you switched out the bum alternator with a cheap foreign replacement," or "you banged up the bumper and had it tied back on with a coat hanger." You may think it is your car and were told that the new safety regulations for cars would not mean that you couldn't keep your car, but "your car" has a definition under the law that clearly, and for the purposes of the new safety regulations your car is no longer safe enough for you, regardless of what you may, in your ignorance, think. Your car is not, for the purposes of the law, "your car." And in any case, the government will see to it that you get a new car that meets the new safety standards and, since it will naturally cost substantially more and you will be required to buy the new car, may give you a subsidy to do so.
Of course, the government may have all kinds of good policy reasons for requiring the new car and for redefining the term "your car" in a way that means you cannot keep what you believe to be "your car." And all of the people that are trained in public policy knew that your car would not be "your car" for the purposes of the law.
Unfortunately, most Americans are not trained in public policy but do think they can understand basic English. They think they know what the phrase, "you can keep your car. Period," or "If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it. Period," means. They think that it means they can keep the car in their driveway, or the healthcare policy they have been renewing for the past few years. They don't like being told they can't keep it. More importantly they don't like being lied to. And the argument of all the people defending Obama that they were not lying but that the objects of their beneficence were too simple, too literal minded, to understand what "your healthcare plan," meant.